UD Students Intern at U.S. Embassy to the Holy See

UD Students Intern at U.S. Embassy to the Holy See

Teresa Haney (Politics ’19) and Maureen O’Toole (Politics, ’19) are back at the University of Dallas for a after spending the fall semester as interns for the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See. And they both say there’s no doubt that their experiences will have positive effects on their futures.

Teresa Haney

Although Haney and O’Toole had different jobs in service to the embassy, both were surprised at how much responsibility and autonomy they were given as interns. Haney, who worked in Foreign Service, said that she was never given menial tasks. “I had to make briefing checklists, write biographies of visiting dignitaries, and research talking points on important issues,” she said. And although these tasks seemed daunting at first, Haney said that knowing she had the support of the Foreign Service team built her confidence. “I basically just figured out what to do,” she said. Haney felt that because her supervisors trusted her with important tasks, they were showing their confidence in her abilities. “It’s like they were saying, ‘We know you can do this.’”

Maureen O’Toole

O’Toole worked on social media at the embassy and learned that State Department writing follows its own particular style. “It’s very important to be clear and thorough. Although you’re not necessarily trying to prove a point, your writing must still be able to draw readers in,” she said. One of the highlights of O’Toole’s semester was working on a diplomatic dinner for seven U.S. Senators and their wives, including Texas Senator John Cornyn. While working on this event, O’Toole had the privilege of meeting Pope Francis.

Both women agreed that the internships provided them with deep experience that will inform their future career decisions. “Being in the Foreign Service really opened my eyes to many issues that the world is facing,” Haney said. When asked if she would recommend that other students consider interning abroad, O’Toole said, “I would definitely say go for it. I have no regrets.”

For more information on internships or to make an appointment with a career adviser, click here.


Job Fair Essentials:
Making a Good Impression

Job Fair Essentials:
Making a Good Impression

OPCD’s annual Advance: Intern, Job and Grad School Fair is on Thursday, February 1, from 3:00-6:00pm in the SB Hall Multipurpose Room. Some careful preparation can help you make a lasting impression and could lead to a great summer internship or even a full-time position after graduation.

Here are some tips from Abby Bird, Recruitment and Training Coordinator at The Heritage Foundation, one of the employers who will be attending the job fair.

  • Dress professionally.
  • Come prepared to talk to the companies that most interest you, but it’s not necessary to be an expert on every company.
  • Work on your elevator pitch–give the recruiter some insight into what you hope to do and highlight one or two key pieces of your resume.
  • Work on your “elevator pitch.” It should include your name, your major, your expected graduation date, and your career goals.

A few more tips from OPCD Career Counselors:

  • Be prepared to talk about not only what experience you have, but also what you hope to do in the future.
  • Thoughtful questions about an employer’s business will make a good impression.
  • Practice your elevator pitch, but don’t memorize it. You want to come across as personable and confident. If this kind of activity is outside your comfort zone, practice with a friend.
  • Bring extra copies of your resume in a padfolio or a plain folder.
  • Try not to be nervous about talking to employers. They will be there to meet you, and they want to hear about you.

To view a list of employers who will be present at the job fair, click here.

Alumni Answers: How do I know when a grad school is right for me?

Alumni Answers: How do I know when a grad school is right for me?

Dear Alumni, How do I know when a grad school is right for me? Francis, Physics, 2018.

Kevin M. (BS CHemistry, 1997), Medical Science Liaison at Genentech

Dear Francis, Hello. I was a Chemistry major and went on to graduate school so I have been there! There are a few things to think about when considering a scientific graduate program. First off ask yourself if you want to pursue a MS or PhD as your final degree? Beyond that, consider what specific discipline appeals most to you; some graduate programs excel at geophysics while others are better with astrophysics. If you aren’t sure what discipline you want in your next step, look for programs that are strong in most types of physics with strong publications from multiple faculty members. Those schools will get you a better chance at finding a good graduate advisor that really knows their science. When choosing a lab, look for where the recent graduates have gone on to. Did they go on to a great job or postdoc? If so, what is the percentage? This should tell you how good your potential advisor is at placing their students and how invested they are in developing those in their lab. This will be very important when looking for future positions once you graduate. Start reaching out now to schools on your short list. Try to make a connection to determine if the environment is one you think you’ll flourish in. Speak to current graduate students and/or recent graduates to get their take on things there. Their emails are fairly easy to find on either the department website or their lab’s homepage. It’s a big decision and your time in graduate school can be much longer than your time at UD, between 5-10 years if you’re considering a PhD. I hope this helps and I wish you the best with your current studies at UD and hope you find a fulfilling graduate program. Best Regards, Kevin

Joseph H. (BA English, 2000), Leadership Program Officer at Southern Methodist University

Well, first of all, get all the advice you an from your teachers at UD. Conditions can vary a _lot_ by both field and sub-specialty. So, for instance, when I was in grad school in English a department I was with had three open positions, one in Renaissance Lit and the other two in Rhetoric. 400 applications came in for the one position in Ren Lit, 8 applications came in for the 2 positions in Rhetoric. That said I think you want to look at at least three factors: 1. Prestige of the school and the program 2. Support 3. Local culture 4. Is the specific opportunity being offered to you a trap Prestige is important because it does a lot to dictate the types of opportunities available to you afterwards. There are a lot of factors to consider in terms of prestige, but baseline it says a lot about what the obvious routes forward are going to be for you afterwards. So you should always be aware of the reality of prestige even as you are aware that making a decision based on prestige alone probably isn’t the wisest thing to do. As a side note on prestige, you wanna be someplace where you will do well in the program. Someone who is bottom third at a great school will have tremendous advantages versus someone who is bottom third at a terrible school, but top third anywhere gets lots more of the options the institution actually has to give. Frequently, a top third two tiers down might end up someplace less prestigious, but a bottom third even from the same program will end up doing different work altogether. Support can take a lot of forms. There are three you always need to consider – (A) is the program itself stable and supported (B) will I be given sufficient work and/or benefits – will the department actually invest in me (C) is the infrastructure – libraries, labs, lectures, etc – here able to support my studies Local culture – two things here: first you’re going to need faculty who will actually work with you and have your back, and you’d like a department with a diversity of views where people can actually work together; second, you’re gonna be there for a while you don’t need to find a place that makes you feel like you’re in heaven, but you’re gonna need a place where you can find easy ways to feel at peace. Is it a trap? I did a lot of my research in grad school on people who didn’t finish grad school, three stories: (A) the special scholarship – friend who came from a great undergrad program went to an Ivy for grad school. They gave her an amazing fellowship. End of her first year they revealed – Oh, well, we wanted someone from Texas to demonstrate diversity, but we thought you wouldn’t make it a year since you were from Texas and therefore probably dumb so our plan is to give it to someone else – and then made her jump through hoops to keep any support at all. She made it out and is now a tenured professor, but, oh, she had a miserable time. (B) the program that makes so many patents – friend got to work in a lab that generated all of these patents and great stuff in material sciences, turns out that’s all the faculty cared about – they rarely actually graduated grad students and instead ran them into the ground and made them sign off all of their rights to their work. He’s now an IT guy with a PhD (a super advanced IT guy, but still not the science he’d thought he’d be doing). (C) the amazing new approach – I myself started out in a program that was trying something very new on the teaching end. A completely paradigm shattering program – which meant, of course, that there were tons of hiccoughs and misconceptions and the faculty had no time to actually do anything but teach and work the program. I taught in that program for two years and not once did I ever have a faculty member evaluate my work – which was not… ideal when the time for recommendations came around.

John L. (BA Business, 2016), General Ledger Accountant I at Associa

Hi Francis, One of the first things I would think about is the field you are interested in entering. Some fields require/advise a graduate degree more than others. If yours is one of those, then I would definitely want to pick a graduate school. I would also look at the financial viability of going to one school or another. You don’t want to saddle yourself with debt forever, so if one school is offering you a great opportunity with scholarships, fellowships, etc., I would strongly consider that school. When I was deciding whether to go to grad school or not, I was blessed to receive a very generous fellowship which made it a no-brainer for me to go to grad school. I know it may not always be that clear, but just like any decision, sometimes one path just makes the most sense. I would also go to your professors. Perhaps there is someone in the Physics department who specializes in something you’re interested in for grad school. They would know if you need to continue your education, and what schools would be good for your specialty. I’m sure they’ve seen and advised other students and they themselves had to make that decision at some point, so if you can give them a good idea of the pros and cons you’re weighing, they’re a great resource to lean on when deciding if to go and where. Hope that helps. Best of luck in your search.

John P. (BA Politics, 1987), Senior Analyst at Legislative Budget Board, State of Texas

Get to know the professors. Make sure you can get along with them. Make sure they like the type of work you’re doing and you like the type of work they are doing. Otherwise you are going to have a very unpleasant experience. See what happens if you disagree with them on something. How do they take it? Can you feel comfortable disagreeing with them on certain things and not feel like you’re getting yourself in trouble?


Dean C. (BA Mathematics 1994), Senior Consulting Actuary at Willis Towers Watson

Graduate school is a very personal thing. I visited Rice for a Master’s in Mathematics and was a bit overwhelmed at the size and formality after studying math at UD for 4 years. I settled on UTD because it is local, they offered me a TA opportunity and it felt like a personal approach to me. You have to visit a couple schools, talk to faculty and current graduate students and discern what the best fit is for your state in life. Sometimes you go to a school because it is close and feels right and other times you might choose a place because it can challenge you in new directions. Congratulations on your Physics degree – not an easy path at UD!

Randy B. (BA English, 1995), Life Coach/Tutor/Faculty at The Bearded Buddha

Hi, Francis! Many blessings to you as you study Physics! Given that major, you have two reasons to pursue grad school (presuming that you want to do grad work in Physics): Professional and Academic. – You pursue a Doctorate for almost exclusively Academic reasons (i.e., you KNOW you want to teach Physics in a college/university setting). While, yes, the aerospace industry does provide some applications for which a Doctorate is required/desirable, a Ph.D is exclusively the doorway to teach/research in an academic setting. – However, a Masters degree has both academic AND work-force/career utility. For one thing, you’ll have to get an MS in the course of obtaining a Ph.D. But, more importantly, MSes have routinely been a means of getting better entry-level positions in a given field and/or getting higher pay for a given position than you would if you had only a BS. Further, the wider array of Masters options open to you as a Physics major means that you can find more Masters programs offering an applied/practice-based pursuit of Physics, versus a theoretical/academic one. Furthermore, your Physics BS will empower you to entertain more than just Physics grad programs. TL;DR—Do you want to be a professor? Or are you looking to specialize your Physics knowledge in a way that will also make you more readily employable in a particular field(s)/career(s)? Answering those two questions will help you better know whether grad school is right for you. SOME CAVEATS— (1) Do NOT go to grad school unless THEY pay for it via fellowship/scholarship. Remember: you are delaying your entry into a paying work field. You have to count in the cost of grad school the fact that, while you’re not in the workforce, you’re not realizing the income you otherwise would be earning. (2) PREP for the GRE. Do NOT take it blind. Don’t just buy a book and scan over it. Instead, take a free practice test online to see where you stack up (Kaplan’s the best—https://www.kaptest.com/gre/free/instant-practice/free-gre-practice-test>). By looking at the web pages of the grad programs in which you’re interested, you’ll see the kind of scores that they’re expecting of viable applicants. The higher your score (and your GPA) is above what they’re expecting, the better chance you have of getting a free ride to grad school. Hope this helps! If you have further questions, just email me at randybeeler@thebeardedbuddha.com; Randy

Victoria W. (BA Psychology, 2013), Scrum Master at Southwest Airlines

Hi Francis, I’m sure you’ve received this answer before and it may drive you crazy, but it depends. Personally, I say start with what career path you want and decide from there. Does your field require an advanced degree, or does nearly everyone have at least a masters? Would obtaining a certain degree make you more marketable or open certain opportunities? If so, go to graduate school as soon as you are able. However, if very few people in your field have an advanced degree, do not waste your time or money. Some people say it’s best to go to grad school if you don’t know what you want to do. I strongly disagree with that. The purpose of grad school much more so than undergrad, is to prepare you for your career. If you do not know what you want to do, look at what jobs you might be interested in (that aren’t necessarily related to your field) and apply. Reach out to the alumni community or other people with a job you’re interested in. You can always go back to school later. Some degree programs actually require job experience (like MBAs). In short, do your research and see what jobs you’re interested in and go from there.

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

Hi Francis, It took me 10 years after getting my Bachelor’s degree too seriously to pursue and apply to grad school. I think there are a few factors/questions that should go into your decision. 1 – Why do you want/need an advanced degree? Are you unable to work in the field you want without one? What is the competitive advantage? Can you still get a good job without one? Do you want to go to grad school in the same area as your undergrad Degree or another area (MBA, IT, etc)? 2 – Will gaining work experience help you in completing your advanced degree? What are the advantages and disadvantages of getting another degree now versus later? Are there people in your field you know who have a grad degree and others who don’t and can help you understand why they did or did not pursue an advanced education? 3 – Are you ready and motivated to spend more time pursuing your formal education or is there a possibility you may burn out? Are there other ways (certificates, licenses, etc) that you can pursue instead of or before applying for grad school? Are you financially prepared to have additional loans or pay for the degree? Those are a few things I considered before going back for my MBA. I hope this helps…and GOOD LUCK!!

How To Avoid These Common New Hire Pitfalls

How To Avoid These Common New Hire Pitfalls

New Hire PitfallsThe interviews are over, the W4 is filled out and it’s your first day on a new job. Now’s the time to shine.

Your early days at a company set the tone for how your boss and coworkers perceive you and can have a lasting impact on your ability to advance.  

Unfortunately, many new hires fall into traps that can hurt their credibility and even jeopardize their prospects at the company. So what can you do to start off strong and gain the respect of your manager and coworkers? Here are some pitfalls to avoid.

Not asking for help

If you put on quite a show during the interview process, you probably feel like you need to prove to your manager that she made the right choice in picking you over other candidates. And in proving your worth, you might avoid asking for help to demonstrate your effectiveness.

This is common: many new hires are afraid to ask for help when facing a problem. Asking for help might reveal that they don’t (gasp!) know everything.

Newsflash—your boss doesn’t expect you to know everything from day one. Asking for help isn’t a display of weakness. It shows your new employer that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to become a valuable part of the team.

Asking for too much help

Although getting help when you really need it is a must, asking questions that you could’ve answered with independent research is lazy.

Companies need employees with critical thinking skills: people who, when faced with a problem, try to arrive at a solution by mapping their current knowledge onto new situations.

Of course, there are some processes or systems that you won’t be able to figure out on your own. Others you can look up on the company website or in training manuals. The trick is in knowing where that line falls in your company or on your particular project.

Before going to a coworker or supervisor with a question, try to find the answer on your own. If you still need to ask for help, explain what steps you took to solve the problem independently. That way the person helping you knows that you’re trying to work through the issue with minimal assistance.

Missing the big picture

In some companies, it can be hard to know how your specific role fits into the overall mission, especially when you’re at the bottom of the org chart. Ideally, you’d learn this during the onboarding process. Regardless, not knowing how your role benefits the bottom line can make your day to day activities seem pointless.

To remedy this, become familiar with your company’s mission and vision statements. Understand their products or services, even if selling or promoting them isn’t your direct responsibility. Whether you’re in accounting or customer service, understanding how you’re specifically making a difference can help you see the big picture and improve your performance.

Getting caught up in office drama

All offices have moods—some are positive and some are negative. And often, one or two people can set the tone for an entire department. If you find that you’ve been hired into a negative office environment, you must do everything you can to avoid the coworkers who are creating that negativity.

In order to make it through the day with your sanity intact, you must focus on doing your job and achieving your performance goals. If a few people continually spew negative comments or gossip about others, avoid them. If you can’t, try to steer conversations toward more positive subjects and avoid topics that tend to drift into negative territory. Do whatever it takes to remain positive. You don’t want to be associated with the office’s negative person or group. It not only hurts your prospects at the company, but it also makes each day a drag.

The first 90 days at a new job are a continuation of the interview process. Your manager and coworkers are still evaluating whether you’re a good fit for the position and the company. With a desire to learn and a willingness to work both independently and as part of the team, you can demonstrate to them that you were and are the right choice.

To make an appointment with an OPCD career advisor, click here.


Follow These 4 Steps to Up Your Interview Game

Follow These 4 Steps to Up Your Interview Game

Let’s face it: interviews are tough. Even seasoned professionals get sweaty palms at the thought of being evaluated on every word that comes out of their mouths. But, like it or not, interviews are an unavoidable part of the hiring process.

So what can you do to up your interviewing game? Here are 4 things to work on:

Take company research to the next level

There was a time when looking up a company’s website and memorizing their mission statement would’ve been called deep research. Not anymore. Before your interview read all of the company’s social media platforms. Check in on its stock performance. Set up alerts for any news about the company and its upper management.

Some hiring managers will test how much research you’ve done by asking questions like, “What did you think of our last social media campaign?” You don’t want to have to answer with, “I haven’t seen it.”

Here’s why: you want your interviewer to know that you want this job, not just any job. By researching the company and its approach to business, you can position yourself as a good fit for the position. This shows your interviewer that you’re sincerely interested in being part of the team.

Be honest about your weaknesses—and then follow up with a plan

When an interviewer asks you, “What’s your greatest weakness?” your tendency might be to couch your answer as a veiled strength: “Sometimes I take my job too seriously” or “People tell me I work too hard.” That’s a mistake because seasoned managers and recruiters can see right through that ploy.

A better answer is an honest one followed by how you’re already addressing that weakness.

Here are some examples:

“I sometimes get caught up in the details of a project and have trouble seeing the big picture. I’m working on that by setting intermediate goals so I can make sure my work is on track.”

“I get nervous in public speaking situations. I’m trying to improve my skills by working with a mentor who’s really good at it. I’ve started speaking up in small group meetings, and I make sure I’m always well-prepared in case the opportunity to speak arises.”

One weakness that doesn’t go over well with hiring managers is tardiness. Don’t bother saying “I’m always late” and following up with how you have a new alarm that requires you to jump up and down to make your phone stop chirping. Work on that weakness, but discuss a different one in the interview.

Be prepared for tricky questions

People tend to prep for interviews by looking up “interview questions” and then practicing their answers in front of the mirror and with friends. They walk into the interview confident that they’re ready for any “tell me about a time” questions the interviewer throws at them.

That’s a good practice, but to take your interviewing skills to the next level you should expect the unexpected. The only way to prep for a question you don’t know is coming is to be very comfortable verbalizing your resume and your accomplishments. Know your story by heart. Get comfortable talking about challenges you faced and how you overcame them.

Before the interview read over the job posting again. Make sure you really understand the job you’re applying for and be prepared to explain—convincingly—how your particular experience and achievements make you the best candidate for the position. Time spent studying what the interviewer is looking for (at least according to the job posting) will prepare you for any oddball questions that might come up.

And watch out for “Why do you want this job?” Answering with “the commute is shorter” or “I liked your website” is a red flag that signals you want a job but maybe not this particular job.

Ask relevant questions

Most interviews wrap up with this: “So do you have any questions for me?” The worst possible answer is, “No, I think you covered it all.”

The second worst answer is, “So how many days of vacation do I get and when can I start taking them?” Not that those are invalid questions—just don’t ask them in the first interview.

The best questions are questions that answer what you need to know to know to be successful: How will my performance be measured? Is there a typical career path that someone in this position might follow? Would there be the possibility of relocating in the future? How often would I be working on a team and how often alone?

And don’t ask questions that you could’ve googled before the interview. The answers to “Where are your headquarters located?” or “How many employees do you have at this location?” can be found online and don’t sound as though you put much thought into them.

It’s OK to be nervous in an interview. But the more you prepare, the better you’ll be able to be yourself. Your goal should be to come across as confident (but not cocky), relaxed (but not indifferent) and personable (but not insincere).

Oh, and keep a tissue handy for those sweaty palms.